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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE II: SPLIT CONSTITUENCIES ON BOTH SIDES
Published January 11, 1995
Many reports across the U.S. and Canada this morning focus on the contentious nature of the first conference call among NHL management that resulted in a 14-12 rejection of a proposal worked out by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow. The N.Y. POST and TORONTO STAR identify the 14 teams as: Anaheim, Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Hartford, New Jersey, Quebec, Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg. Of those, seven joined the majority in approving the league's "take it or leave it" offer to the players: Anaheim, Calgary, Dallas, Hartford, Vancouver, Quebec and Florida. BETTMAN AND THE OWNERS: In Toronto, Bob McKenzie writes, "If ever there were any doubt the hawks rule the NHL roost, yesterday's unfolding drama erased it" (TORONTO STAR, 1/11). In New York, Larry Brooks compares Bettman to Abraham Lincoln writing that he will have to "rule over a house divided, ruined by a bloody civil war" (N.Y. POST, 1/11). One NHL exec: "The idiots are running the asylum." The TORONTO SUN's Scott Morrison adds that, for a time, Bettman "resembled former president John Ziegler in not only height but league stature" (TORONTO SUN, 1/11). According to the SUN's Al Strachan, Capitals Owners Abe Pollin confronted Bettman in the call, saying: "Who authorized you to negotiate after we had made a final offer?" Writes Strachan, "These people would rather kill the season than see reason. ... Bettman, who precipitated this mess, has finally fought the good fight for the game over the last few days, but it may be too late" (TORONTO SUN, 1/11). Pollin: "It's an important issue, some guys get emotional" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 1/11). In Toronto, James Christie writes, "The yo-yo dispatching of Bettman by the owners created an impression that the commissioner was plagued by a lack of owner confidence -- or certainly a lack of empowerment" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/11). In Boston, Stephen Harris writes that the owners' "egos, greed and stupidity" has pushed the NHL to the "absolute edge of disaster" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/11). In Vancouver, Archie McDonald writes, "The most revealing development in the past few days is how united the players have remained and how fractured the owners have become" (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/11). In Detroit, Vartan Kupelian writes Bettman's "tenure is on the brink" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/11). USA TODAY's Tom Weir: "Hear that hissing sound? Pssssssssst. That's the air going out of Gary Bettman's balloon" (USA TODAY, 1/11). ESPN's Al Morganti: "Gary Bettman has a house divided. He has a hawkish element, which may be a misnomer, its kind of the needy and the greedy. Needy teams from Canada which are not big market teams, and wealthy teams like Boston and Chicago" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/10). STANDING BY THEIR MAN: In Montreal, Red Fisher reports that Bettman "was among those who weren't satisfied with the tentative deal he brought to the governors." Bettman told them, according to Fisher: "This is what the players' association is ready to accept, but I'm not. If you want to vote on it, go ahead, but I wouldn't recommend it" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/11). Canucks Owner Arthur Griffiths "all but accused" the NHLPA of planting the story that Goodenow and Bettman had reached a tentative agreement and that the owners undermined the deal. Griffiths: "There was, in fact, no consensus and [Bettman] indicated to [the players] there were issues that would not fly. Therefore it was not a proposal he was recommending and it was not a done deal" (Elliott Pap, Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/11). Panthers President Bill Torrey: "It was fair to say today's discussion was heated at times. But if anybody thinks there's a division on the board or that we don't support what Gary is trying to, that is erroneous" (David Neal, MIAMI HERALD, 1/11). Whalers Owner Peter Karmanos: "The early vote was to test the mood of the ownership, not to end the season" (Jeff Jacobs, HARTFORD COURANT, 1/11). Don Cherry, a oft-foe of Bettman's: "Everybody's blaming Bettman for everything ... I think he's saving hockey for the year right now. If it wasn't for Bettman, I heard last Saturday that the league would've been cancelled" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/10). GOODENOW AND THE PLAYERS: Goodenow faces his own set of potential problems with his employers. In Toronto, Gare Joyce writes that, if a deal is done, the NHLPA "will have to explain to its members why they can't gain access to the free market ... why, in a business where the average career lasts but five years, players have to be long-time fixtures before they're eligible for arbitration, that is, the independent determination of fair- market value. When hockey's brightest lights negotiate their contracts, they'll look to NHLPA leadership and ask: 'Where did our leverage go?'" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/11). In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes, "Somewhere, Alan Eagelson is laughing." Canucks Player Rep Trevor Linden: "We're getting raped" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/11). ESPN's Mike Milbury on Bob Goodenow: "He's the reason this mess has occurred. The guy wouldn't come to the table, he missed meetings, wouldn't return phone calls. I put the blame squarely on his shoulders. He blew it, and he blew it big time, and the players are suffering, they're getting a tough deal from the owners. I think a tax consideration would have been better off than the deal that they're getting right now. ... The players union has come out of this bloodied, and I think his job's on the line" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/10).